What is a five-star hotel? Typically, high end hotels are rated between one to five stars. At a five-star property, accommodations will boast of excellent staff with exceptional levels of proactive service and customer care, cleanliness, maintenance, hospitality and delivery of services all adhere to an extremely high standard.
Sandals advertise themselves as “the very pinnacle of luxury Caribbean all-inclusive vacations”. They feature unlimited gourmet dining, unique bars serving premium spirits and wines, land and water sport, including complimentary green fees at their golf resorts. It has been reported that they were invited to consider Tobago as a location for one of their resorts.
As a person who has been advocating tourism as one of the pillars for economic transformation, one would think that I would have been happy that the present government took such an initiative. On the contrary I was disappointed as I felt then, and do so even more now, that the present and past governments do not understand what is required to attract the level of tourism that is required to compliment our economic recovery effort.
It has been reported that Sandals could have had the resort constructed within 18 months. I have no doubt that such a schedule was possible. My concern was the status of the island. Tobago is not ready for a Sandals and would not be ready in 18 months or two years. Just over six months ago hotels in Tobago were complaining about the lack of water. Tobago like Trinidad continues to have a very unreliable water supply. The airport, roads, sewer system, security and support services are not in place for large scale luxury accommodation.
Tourism can and ought to be a major initiative of the government, but it must be done right or like the disaster that was the Sandals pull out, the international community will simply laugh at our attempt to lure large quantities of tourists to our islands.
Our number one challenge must be security. Police patrols must be structured and planned rather than ad hoc. Water supply must be reliable. The solution is a gravity fed system with community storage capacity to last at least a week during repairs from source locations. Our roads, air and sea transportation services must at the very least meet or exceed basic international standards. Our beaches must be cleaned daily and park rangers, life guards and guides in uniform must be employed to safely allow tourists to enjoy the facilities. Our sewer and waste water system must allow for thousands of people to use the facilities without impacting the environment or experiencing system failure.
Only when we have covered the basics like toilet facilities along the pathway of bands at carnival parades, proper seating, lighting and sound at shows, access to banking facilities at hotels, public transportation that is fast, reliable and clean, well trained personnel to sell our internationally acclaimed brand of friendliness and service, should we consider asking hotel chains like Sandals to consider our islands as a destination.
If we were to get the basics right, we would not have to ask anyone to come here. They would be knocking at our door wanting to go to our mountain tops, hike through our beautiful forests, paddle through our swamps and rivers, visit our pitch lake and participate in the greatest of street parades our Trinidad and Tobago carnival. If we do not embark on these initiatives, alternatively, we can blame arm chair commentators for forcing providers of luxury living to not invest in our country.
Political Leader of the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago